CHEOPS – the acronym for: Characterising ExOplanet Satellite – was developed for a mission to understand the make-up of exoplanets that orbit nearby stars. It will accomplish this by seeking out small planets that are similar to Earth and studying them in great detail, with the aim of verifying whether some could support life.
The 300-kg. CHEOPS spacecraft was built by an Airbus-led consortium of 24 companies from 11 European countries, working under ESA’s tight schedule for launch at the end of 2019. It is the first of the space agency’s “S” (small) missions, designed to be ready to fly within five years from contract award and using proven technologies to pave the way for bigger and more ambitious missions.
The satellite’s exoplanet-analyser is a Ritchey-Chrétien telescope supplied by the University of Bern, Switzerland and integrated on Airbus’ highly-flexible and compact Astrobus platform that already has been successfully used on such high-profile Earth imaging programmes as Spot 6 and 7, KazEOSat-1, PeruSat-1 and the Sentinel 5 Precursor; along with the MetOp Second Generation weather satellites.